How do you say “no” to one of your children’s teachers? I was pondering a big “no thank you” when one of our son’s teachers called the parents in and drove a hard bargain. She asked each of us to sign up for a weekly visit to teach memory verses! A gargantuan deer-in-the-headlights expression consumed my face. Problem is, I’ve been known to fear Scripture memory*, much less teach it!
At the time, these were fifth graders, so what’s the big deal, right? But…. fifth graders are pretty savvy. Plus I discovered the simple-but-endearing verse “Jesus wept” had already been taught! Bust!
Good news: I Thessalonians 5:17 had not yet been taught, and it too was only two words! (“Pray continually.”) Powerful verse, pitifully coward-like attempt on my part, I know, but that’s the exact verse I marched in with.
I took blue pieces of paper (to remind us of a blue sky) and taught these little darlings what an “arrow prayer” is. We all drew arrows pointing heavenward, and recited “Pray continually” together. We talked about the letter “a” also standing for “ambulance” and how we can shoot up arrow prayers for the patient inside when we see an ambulance.
These astute learners added the letter “a” also can stand for being on the” alert” for anything or anyone who may need a quick arrow prayer. They even came up with “a” for “antennae”—as in we should have our antennae up! Who was teaching who here?!!!
This week, we’re going to address Beating Busyness by applying margin to our lives in the area of prayer. Last week we talked at length about margin (But I Don’t Have TIME for a Bible Study!), learning margin is the space between our load and our limits.
When we spread ourselves too thin, we push out God and our closest relationships. Best news: margin beats busyness and we’re discussing four ways, one each week, to do that.
Many of us claim there’s not enough time in the day to add prayer to our list, but I’d like to show us all it is very possible. Our friends and family will be blessed!
When asked about the secret of his evangelistic crusades, Billy Graham said, “We have three secrets: Prayer, Prayer and Prayer!”
Let’s begin by praying for a friend near and dear to my heart. Many of you know Kristen Sauder. She’s my younger-but-wiser friend, is married to Kurt and they have four children. She’s written excellent Bible studies, hosts a wonderful radio program (“Excellent Things”, weekdays here in Louisville on WFIA FM…), is a gifted speaker, and teacher. She’s recently been diagnosed with cancer.
Lord, we come before you today to lift up Kristen and Kurt Sauder. You have gifted them to minister to so many of us. Please guide the doctors, aid the radiation to diminish the cancer, strengthen Kristen to endure, comfort her family, and enable us to minister to them. We praise you that you are in control and we trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
That’s more than an arrow prayer, obviously, but just that paragraph took only eight seconds. See how this can be done? We all can help so many by praying for them. I Kings 8:28 says “God listens to our prayers.” And Proverbs 15:8 tells us “God delights in our prayers.” (See below for more Scripture on prayer.**)
Bill Hybels wrote an excellent book on prayer called Too Busy Not to Pray. In his chapter Slowing Down to Pray, Bill says “Busyness is akin to something the Bible calls worldliness—getting caught up with society’s agenda, objectives and activities to the neglect of walking with God. ” Whoa. Surely we don’t mean to neglect God, do we?
Therefore, taking time to pray is paramount to our Christian lives. Bill adds, “Prayer unlocks God’s consistent and prevailing power in our lives. Prayer is a bridge from despair to hope, from fear to confidence, from spectating to participating.
Bill offers another excellent tool for prayer beyond an arrow prayer. He highly recommends, as do many of my faithful prayer warrior friends, keeping a journal. Am I hearing some of you groan?
Journals aren’t for everyone, so not to worry. However, if you like seeing answered prayer, this is the way to go. You’ll then realize the value and power of prayer. NOTHING is impossible with God! (See Luke 1;36-38 in The Message.)
Journaling slows you down long enough to think about for whom and for what to pray. “Journaling gives the body a brief rest.” (We’ll be talking more about the importance of “rest” in a couple of weeks.) “Journaling focuses the mind and frees the Holy Spirit to operate, if only for a few minutes. It’s time to slow down, reflect, and listen.”
One of many favorite books on prayer is Catherine Martin’s Passionate Prayer—Discovering the Power of Talking with God. Catherine really feels strongly about taking the time to pray. She says, “Step away from the life of hurry and find the rhythm of walking and talking with Jesus.”
She talks about “When someone asks how we are doing, our response of ‘fine’ really means:
“Fine” according to the world: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.” Uh, that would be me on occasion. You?
“Fine” according to our prayer lives: Faithful to God, Inspired by Him, Nourished by the Word, Empowered by the Holy Spirit.” Slight difference, huh?
Savor these words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
Dave Stone, Senior Minister at Southeast Christian Church preached an excellent sermon recently on the above verses plus a few more. He maintains our focus is key to navigating this world. He showed us in Philippians that Paul did not allow the world to change his focus. (To watch the sermon, “Live With It: Focus”, go to www.southeastchristian.org )
The Life Application Bible says, “Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers. Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.”
Catherine Martin adds, “When we pray, the world can see the change in who we are and what we do. Enriching our lives of prayer is WORTH the time and energy.”
Next time you tell yourself you don’t have time to pray, take a second, literally, and ask God to help you. Talk to Him. See from James 4:8** below that when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.
Finally, let’s return to that hammock picture from last week.
Look at it, picture yourself lying in it, swinging back and forth with a lovely warm breeze in your hair. Now, enjoy this visual from Ole Hallesby, a Norwegian theologian: “To pray is nothing more involved than to lie in the sunshine of His grace, to expose our distress of body and soul to those healing rays which can in a wonderful way counteract and render ineffective the bacteria of sin. To be a man or woman of prayer is to take this sun-cure, to give Jesus, with His wonderworking power access to our distress night and day.”
Next week, we’ll be discussing the need to diligently guard our calendars. White space in your calendar equals more margin in your life.
‘Til next time!
(Today’s blog post is dedicated to my prayer warriors: Becky Pippert, Jane Chilton and Doris Bridgman. They’ve taught this “Doubting Thomas” the power of persistent, unrelenting prayer. Numerous times over the years, they’ve been a life-preserver to my sanity, all by simply offering to pray. Thanks, girls! Love y’all.)
*Three great resources on Scripture memory:
Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts is memorizing one hundred and eleven verses from Matthew 5,6, and 7, plus has the Romans Project on Chapters 1, 8, and 12. She’s giving us, the readers, great ways to do this on her blog: www.aholyexperience.com plus she shares about a new i-phone app called Scripture Typer. Check it out!
Rob Morgan has authored an excellent book 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart. Billy Graham talks about Rob and this book in his book, Nearing Home. Both are powerful.
Kristen Sauder, whom we prayed for earlier, wrote a super neat Picture Scripture: Bible Memory Like You’ve Never Seen it Before notebook with excellent visuals, depicting lots of Scriptures. Great way to memorize. You can find this via www.furtherstillministries.org
**A few favorite Scriptures on prayer:
James 4:8a “ Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (This and all the below Scriptures are in the NIV version.) The NLT from James 4:8a says, “Come close to God and he will come close to you.” And the NKJ says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Luke 18:1 “ Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”